China has criticized the eastward expansion of NATO, saying that the US-led military alliance should have been dissolved after the collapse of the Soviet Union more than three decades ago.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news conference on Friday that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as a product of the Cold War, should have become history when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.
“In the early 1990s, then-US Secretary of State James Baker promised to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand even an inch eastward,” Zhao said.
As the initiator and biggest “behind-the-scene planner” for the Ukraine conflict, the US has led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in over 20 years, he added.
“The number of NATO members increased from 16 to 30, advancing more than 1,000 kilometers eastward to the Russian border,” Zhao said.
He said that the world does not need a new Cold War, neither does Europe. He called on NATO to reflect on its role in the Ukraine crisis and the security of Europe itself.
NATO was formed in 1949 by 12 countries, including the US, Canada, the UK and France. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of former Warsaw Pact countries switched sides and joined the military alliance. It currently consists of 30 independent member countries, who are committed to protect each other.
NATO’s eastward expansion has long been a concern for world powers China and Russia, who have constantly warned that the move would lead to a war.
Russia has constantly been warning against membership of many parts of the old Soviet Bloc in NATO, especially the prospective membership of Ukraine in the Western military alliance, something that eventually pit Moscow against the Kiev government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the military campaign in Ukraine in February 24, has been clear for many years that if continued, the expansion would likely be met with serious resistance by the Russians.
Before the military conflict, Moscow had put forward a set of security proposals to de-escalate the tensions, including a guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO.
The proposals were rejected.
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